Monday, January 29, 2024

Mini Book Reviews: January 2024

Disclaimer: I received ARCs of Come and Get It and Martyr! from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

I kicked off 2024 with the resolution to read my NetGalley ARCs before they are published! I have so many that I have fallen behind. I love that they send me so many books to review but now I am below 80% and need to fix that. Moving forward, I'll be sharing a mix of upcoming new releases from NetGalley as well as library holds and backlist books. 

This month had 5 very different books. My favorite one was Martyr!. You can't judge a book by its cover and when I first received Martyr! from NetGalley, I thought I wouldn't like it at all. The first sentence grabbed me and the book didn't let go. It won't be the book for everyone but it gave me a lot to think about. 

It's been a little frustrating trying to find good books to read lately. Every time I pick up a book that everyone is raving about, I'm disappointed. I've got 3 NetGalley books coming up for this month. Let's see what I find.



With a looming pandemic, a young woman facing debt volunteers for a vaccine trial. Sequestered in a hospital-like setting with several other subjects, the world has gone silent and the group sorts out their situation. That alone would have been enough for a novel, but there are a couple of side stories, including about a type of time machine brought to the hospital by one of the other subjects that allow the user to travel back in time. I couldn't help but wonder who would bring such a thing to a hospital, but ok, I'll allow it. The love letters the main character writes to an octopus she once worked with add nothing to the story. Seriously, another octopus love story? Did the author throw this because octopi are trending right now? Beautifully written, I had such high hopes for The Memory of Animals, But ultimately, this was an unsatisfying read for me.

Come and Get It
, Reid's second novel, is a character-driven, coming-of-age story about a group of female dormmates and their RA. A visiting professor offers the RA money to provide access to students to talk about wedding traditions,  but she finds their personal stories more interesting and sells them to a teen magazine.  The real story begins when dorm pranks go awry and tensions rise, culminating in a near tragedy. This book starts off painfully slow and I started to wonder what, if anything would happen. About halfway through, the story begins to take off.  The writing is engaging and the characters are very well-developed. However, when comparing this novel to the author's first, Such a Fun Age, this one was a disappointment. 


Martyr! is a beautifully written debut and is the story of an Iranian-American who is dealing with loss and trauma. As a young child, he lost his mom when her plane was shot down by US military over Tehran. His dad, who spent his life working on a chicken farm in Indiana, recently passed away from a stroke. The story is told in the first person by this young man, who is a recovering addict/alcoholic. He has a goal of writing a book about martyrs to make sense of his past while exploring the possibility of becoming a martyr himself. It's not as depressing as it sounds--there is a lot of dark humor sprinkled in here as he explores his goal-- and the writing is something to be savored. And how about that ending?! So different from anything I've read lately, I fully expect this one to be at the top of many best of 2024 lists.
Sorrow and Bliss
received so many positive reviews, that I decided to pick it up. I have to admit to having a bit of trouble getting into it until about 1/3 of the way in. The main character, who narrates the story, is completely unlikeable. She's rude and self-centered. Yet, she has a man who seemingly adores her despite how mean she is to him. Everyone seems to tiptoe around her and accommodate her. I questioned why I was reading such a depressing, negative book, yet I couldn't put it down. The story picked up as the character learned she had a mental illness, that once diagnosed, changed the narrative. This book will make you think about people in your life who might be labeled as 'difficult' or who struggle with interpersonal relationships. The author does a fantastic job developing a character in the face of mental illness. 

Mercury is a complex family drama. A young woman, Marley, moves with her mother to a small town and -oops- becomes part of a family that owns a roofing business. Whether she wants it or not, she becomes the glue that holds this family of men together. The matriarch of the family has long been ignored and stays in the background much of the time. She isn't warm or welcoming to Marley, but as the story travels back and forth from the present to the past, the reader begins to understand why. There are lots of secrets in this family, which are revealed slowly, in bits and pieces. For me, the book was kind of slow to start, but about halfway through, the pace picked up. Stick with it, because it will be worth the read.



Have you read anything good lately? Do you find yourself frustrated by books that get good reviews but don't live up to the hype? What would you recommend to me?

I'm linking up with Jenn and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics. 




20 comments :

  1. Great books and reviews! I had no idea octopi was trending right now. I think Sorrow and Bliss would be the first one I would read from this list.

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    1. I've reviewed 3 books that feature Octopi: Remarkably Bright Creatures, Sea Change, and now The Memory Animals. There's another one called Mountain in the Sea that I feel like I have to read now, lol. Add in the documentary My Octopus Teacher, too!

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  2. I do like the sound of Martyr! I'm curious to know more about the ending - I'll check it out! Thanks for these reviews!

    I'm on a biography quest. I started with Kara Goucher's book, then moved on to Lauren Fleshman and I'm now reading Des Linden's book.
    Of the three, I find Kara's the most impressive one because she had to endure the most abuse. I do like Des Linden's book - perhaps because she has a more light-hearted approach and because was a late bloomer (like many of us!).

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    1. Kara's book frustrated me because she let the abuse go on without telling anyone--not even her husband. I wish she would have shared her mindset about that. Was she afraid to tell anyone? Was she under Salazar's spell? I no longer buy or support Nike, tho.

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    2. That's a very good point! I guess the longer you don't tell anyone, the harder it gets. No more Nike over here, either!

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  3. I did a book review this week as well! Sorrow and Bliss sounds really interesting, I may have to pick that one up. Mercury also looks like a good read! I tend to stick with mystery/ thriller books and have to make myself branch out. These two books may help with that! Thanks for sharing!

    Two of my favorites from last year were None of This is True by Lisa Jewell and The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson. I also have a post I am working on with my favorite reads from 2023! And yes, I get frustrated when they don’t live up to the hype!

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    1. I haven't read either of those books but will definitely add them to my TBR!

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  4. Love this post each month. I was thinking about the first one until I read your review. I'm addicted lately to Freida McFadden mysteries. They are a fast read and always an unexpected twist.

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  5. Reading Ann Patchett's newest - Tom Lake. Loving it!

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  6. What an eclectic list of books! I have not read any of these. I’m currently in the new Nelson Demille book which I am enjoying a lot

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  7. Oh I was so disappointed with Come and Get it. I didn't even review it on my blog, just on NG. A right old mess, I couldn't engage with any of the characters, the structure wasn't there and then I felt like when the Terrible Thing happened it was completely out of character for the one character not to tell what actually happened.

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    1. I'm so glad we agree on this one! The New York Times book review was really positive. I did like how they dissected the story. It helped me understand what the author was going for--but like you said, it was such a mess that I couldn't sort it out.

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  8. Martyr sounds amazing. I will have to pick that one up. I'm about to start A Fever In The Heartland, about the downfall of the KKK. It won't be a light read, but I'm so interested to see the heroes who conquered that awful group.

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    1. Oooh, that sounds intriguing! I'll be interested to hear how you like it.

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  9. I didn't know these books and their authors. Thanks for the review.
    Have a nice week end.

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